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Descent Into Genocide

Candlelight (2014)
Rating: 7/10

It’s been four years since Ipswich-based black metallers Eastern Front released their 2010 debut effort Blood On Snow. The war-torn quartet has been busy touring and writing the music for this, their sophomore effort, in the hope of attracting more attention to their already promising armoury.

The guys formed in 2006, with guitarist Holocaust being the only original member left since the 2007 departure of vocalist Mike Taylor. Even so, it’s been a reasonably steady line-up ever since, with bassist Destroyer having joined in 2008 and a year later Nagant on vocals, while drummer Blitz was enlisted in 2012.

Although the debut album was a reasonably hostile affair, it had an air of the unremarkable about it and was contemporary by design with its war-obsessed theme, and so it’s no surprise that Descent Into Genocide continues down that same debris-strewn path. Belligerent drums which shatter bones, snarling, sneering vocals, a barbaric bass and the expected abrasive, scathing guitars means that Eastern Front Mark II is still a pretty formidable beast harbouring some wonderfully catchy segments of mayhem from the off.

Opener ‘Retribution Sky’ has some nice insertions of gothic instrumentation to add to the already pummelling rhythm section where every instrument shines; the drums are clear and precise, the bass is heavy and rumbles, the guitars are sturdy and deliver a rush of blood to the head and Nagant’s vocals do exactly what you’d expect in black metal territory. ‘The Hanging Of Faith’ opts for starker climes with that pallid guitar sound and the avalanche of Blitz’s percussion; it’s initially a militant, mid-tempo charge that suddenly lurches into an outburst of vile vocal yaps and a machine-gun drum assault. It’s good stuff, if generic.

Of all the tracks, there are three which really stand out for me. ‘Blitzfreeze’ is a truly demonic sounding piece of wretched blast-beat metal; it’s a superb marrying of darker, orchestral majesty fused with faster, scratchy passages particularly in the fantastic drum attack and Nagant’s hideous vocal snarls. Meanwhile, ‘Katyn Forest’ is a peculiar, simmering act of defiance beginning in slow, atmospheric fashion before the torrent of racing guitars and deep, ashen melody. My favourite track on the album has to be ‘Ghouls Of Leningrad’, though, a jarring thrash metal assault hinting at Mayhem with its smirking menace but incorporating macabre melody within its frozen framework of barbed guitar work and again, that formidable rear-guard of Blitz’s drumming.

I have to admit that I’m quite surprised by this opus, and expected it to gradually descend into the mediocre. While it’s not top-notch black metal, the band has made the necessary improvements from the debut and produced a record that has more highs than lows. It’s important that the British black metal scene is recognised for producing quality music. Although this opus is one offering modern dynamism, it’s still one that deserves your attention if you call yourself a black metal fan.

I have to admit to preferring the darker, more bewitching sounds of acts like Witchclan, but Descent Into Genocide is still a solid foray from the trenches out onto the war field.

Neil Arnold

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